In a 33-page report, the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy for Africa (CHRDA) has recorded 116 civilian deaths, related to the armed conflict in Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions between January and June of this year.
The report published on Saturday, September 23, 2023 has raised awareness about deepening humanitarian needs in Cameroon owing to the Anglophone conflict, the Boko Haram insurgency in the Far North and the refugee crisis in the East Region.
CHRDA has documented eight categories of human rights abuses perpetrated by the army and separatist fighters in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon between January and June.
Below are the CHRDA statistics:
Arbitrary arrest (214)
Attacks and injuries (100)
Inhumane and degrading treatment (32)
enforced disappearance (01).
An extract of the report said: “There was an increase in targeted attacks against those supporting warring parties in one way or the other. For example, the separatist fighters increased attacks against those they termed ‘black legs’ while the government forces increased the crackdown on ex-fighters who had dropped arms but didn’t submit themselves to Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) centers.”
Customs and tradition under attack
Traitional institutions, symbols and chiefs in the Anglophone regions have been under attack. While some have been kidnapped and subjected to inhumane treatments, dozens have fled their villages and are currently seeking refuge in the french-speaking parts of the country.
“The Separatists continued to attack traditional rulers mostly because they are the auxiliaries of the administration and also their participation in government-organized initiatives or in activities aimed at promoting peace in the North West and South West Regions of the country,” CHRDA said.
But Separatists are not the only challenge the tradition is dealing with. “In some instances, government officials targeted and threatened traditional rulers for allegedly collaborating with the separatist fighters. As was the case with the threats meted against the Fon of Mbiame by the Senior Divisional Officer of Bui Division of the North West Region,” a section of the report reads.
Arbitrary Arrest, Torture
Among the cases of rights violations captured by CHRDA, is the arbitrary arrest and incommunicado detention of two university students in Buea on March 15 during which one of them, Ngule Linus, died.
The result of an autopsy, which the government conducted on his body is yet to be released.
“Though the government authorities reported to have carried out the requested autopsy, the results was not shared with the public. It is therefore unclear whether the cause of death for Ngule Linus was as a result of torture or illness or even tension from the investigations as reported by SEMIL,” the report noted.
Cameroon military officers have also been accused of killing five men aged between 20 and 37 years on June 24 at Ekona, a small town in the South. West Region.
“These individuals, aged between 20 and 37 years, were not armed nor actively participating in hostilities
at the time of the incident,” CHRDA wrote.
The CHRDA report says more than 214 cases of arbitrary arrest and detention by soldiers were reported in the North West and South West Regions between January and June.
“These numbers could be high as we believed that hundreds of cases were unrecorded or unreported.”
Those arrested and detained hardly enjoy the right to fair trial.
Separatists who have since 2016 been fighting for an independent state called Ambazonia, have said CHRDA, have perpetrated serious human rights atrocities in the two Regions this year.
Aside from orchestrating killings, kidnapping, and torture of civilians, the separatists have also been called out for attacking French-speaking Cameroonians living in the English-speaking Regions.
“The ‘Ambazonia Governing Council’ in several statements on their official Facebook Page reiterated that the killing of one Anglophone could be met with a reciprocal killing of 10 Francophones,” CHRDA wrote.
Among many excesses the Separatists perpetrated include the targeted killing of six and injuring of 52 workers of the Cameroon Development Cooperation (CDC) on February 10.
“This attack was perpetrated by armed separatists in Tiko Municipality, of the South West Region of Cameroon.”
The separatists also killed Bamenda-based sports journalist, Anye Nde Nsoh, who was corresponding for The Advocate newspaper.
CHRDA says the separatists used kidnapping “as a weapon of war” to target those they termed as “black legs” and to raise funds for their movement.
“There was an increase of kidnapping cases in the first half of the year 2023 as a result of continuous disputes among ‘Ambazonia’ movements and crack down on their networks by the Cameroon government authorities that disrupted their funding charnels.”
Separatist fighters are also reported to have “carried out a series of kidnaps against people who were not in support or violated their rules and regulations like the non-respect of ghost towns and lockdowns, participation in banned activities like the Senatorial elections and the commemoration of other national and international days and government officials were targeted”.
“Some of the victims paid a ransom before they were released; some were killed while in captivity; some were freed and some are still in captivity at the time of this report.”
The report recalled the kidnap of 30 elderly women in Big Babanki in the North West Region for protesting against a compulsory monthly levy of FCFA 10,000 for men and FCFA 5000 for women by separatist fighters.
Boko Haram Conflict
Cameroon’s president Paul Biya has on several ocassions boasted about his government’s successes on the war against Boko Haram. But on the ground, massive destruction and killings are the people’s daily nightmare in the Far North Region of the country.
This 2023 alone, attacks by the islamist sect has claimed 32 lives, with 205 houses burnt, according to CHRDA. The Rights Organisation added that Five incidents of looting were recorded in the first half of this year.
Boko Haram, which has been fighting to reclaim the Northern parts of Cameroon since 2014, has been faulted for most of the atrocities — Killings, looting, arson, kidnapping, harassment, and destruction of property.
Several attacks by the fighters left fatalities among the population, security and defence forces.
“The Boko Haram Insurgency Group in the first half of the year 2023 committed atrocities mostly against the civilian population in the Far North Region of Cameroon. The atrocities were meted against the Cameroon Military and civilians through the use of land mines, lethal weapons, destruction of property and looting,” CHRDA said.
It added that these attacks were largely committed in Mora, Armchide, Lamram II, Wata Toufou, Gouzoudou and Limani localities in the Far North Region.
Citing legal instruments governing war and armed conflict, which Cameroon had ratified, CHRDA warned belligerents of the conflicts in Cameroon against targeting civilians and unarmed persons.
Dialogue, restrain necessary
While launching the report in Buea on Saturday, CHRDA’s Founder and Director, Barrister Agbor Balla said there was an urgent need for dialogue between the Cameroon Government and separatists in the English-speaking Regions to end the Anglophone Crisis.
He said there was need to stop the crisis from degenerating, because more people are increasingly falling into unspeakable levels of poverty due to the conflict.
According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 3 million people in Cameroon are facing acute food insecurity as of May 2023.
CHRDA called for dialogue in the Anglophone Regions and increasing security measures in the Far North to quell the ongoing upheavals.
“The CHRDA recommends that the warring parties in the North-West and South-West Regions of Cameroon should initiate a truthful and sincere mediated dialogue to resolve the ongoing armed conflict,” it said.
“We also recommend that the government forces and separatist fighters should show restraint and desist from committing human rights violations and abuses, especially perpetration of attacks against civilians and their properties.”
CHRDA says its mid-term report on the conflicts in Cameroon was derived through field monitoring of conflict areas by its staff; observation of court sessions; interviews with victims, eyewitnesses and stakeholders in the conflicts; analysis of media reports and the use of a digital application.